Members of the Dunedin Music Society (DMS) had a hankering to travel, to play music, and to enjoy camaraderie with fellow concert band performers from all over the nation and the world – so in true DMS style, a new ensemble was established! The Florida Symphonic Winds (FSW), initially conceived in 2020, met for three workshops and several rehearsals before embarking on a week-long tour, not only to sightsee in the beautiful regions of Austria and Bavaria, but most importantly to participate in music-making together with communities across the ocean.
On July 16, the week before the group left for Europe, they performed their prepared program in a pre-tour concert locally in Clearwater, at the Holy Trinity Episcopal Church. 41 musicians and their conductor for this overseas adventure, Dr. Jeffrey Traster, gathered in the church to showcase the music they would be playing in Austria and Germany for an enthusiastic full-house audience.
On July 22, as FSW percussionist Stephanie Lafleur noted, “Everyone arrived [in Europe] on time, and we loaded a beautiful motor coach headed for Mondsee. The ride from Munich was rather long since it was a Friday afternoon, and the locals were heading out for the weekend or summer holiday. The view from the bus, however, did not disappoint. The countryside was dotted with villages and lush fields. As we got closer to Mondsee, the mountain line got more dramatic out our large bus windows. Finally, we arrived at Schloss Hotel in Mondsee, an adorable boutique hotel set in an idyllic Austrian village.”
One of the ensemble’s first concerts was at Mirabell Gardens in Salzburg. The group set up their instruments and equipment in the shady outdoor venue as audience members passed by. The concert consisted of 12 pieces of American and European contemporary and classical music, wrote ensemble member John Herring. Todd Emmer remarked, “As we play, some audience members are obviously deeply affected and there are some shared tears among audience and band members.”
The musicians were excited and pleased with their performance. One of the emotional highlights of their sightseeing visit to Salzburg was a tour of Mozart’s birthplace! The FSW also performed in the town square of Mondsee.
On the fourth travel day the ensemble departed from Mondsee to Melk and Mank, still in Austria. Highlights in those towns included Melk Abbey founded in 1069 and the Schafer Brass Factory where horns are made from sheets of metal. Finally the FSW made it to beautiful Vienna. According to trumpet player John Herring, “Off to an early start in Vienna, the FSW toured the Art History Museum. This was followed by free time to explore other cultural activities such as the ongoing Film Festival. The FSW prepared for another outdoor concert at 6PM in Vienna at the Maria Theresien Platz on the other side of the Art History Museum.”
On July 28, the intrepid group hit the road toward Wurzburg, Germany. As Stephanie commented, “we stopped along the way for breaks and lunch. In the late afternoon, we arrived in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany. This medieval town is located on the “Romantic Road” and is full of kitschy shops, sidewalk cafes, and great photo opportunities. We quickly set up our concert in the town square, adjacent to the church and in front of many spectators. Our music was well received and it was amazing to look out into the crowd with the small German village as the backdrop!”
One of the audience members in the crowd at Rothenburg, Jan Senkyr, spotted the band and posted on social media: “We saw you guys! It was an amazing performance. We went all the way to Germany to stumble upon your performance and find that we have great talent from our own backyard in Dunedin.” Hopefully she and her family will be new audience members of all the Dunedin Music Society ensembles right here at home!
Amid sightseeing days filled with museums, wonderful breakfasts, marketplaces, and medieval churches, the Florida Symphonic Winds concluded their tour by playing together with the Moderner Spielmanns- und Fanfarenzug Retzbach-Zellingen band, and enjoying community friends, a macaroon festival, and other summer traditions held in Retzbach. Finally, at the end of the concert tour, musicians had the opportunity either to come back to Florida or to extend their stay for a visit to Prague, Czech Republic.
Tremendous thanks must go to Lee Lafleur, DMS Tour Coordinator, and Maury Schulte of Tour Resource Consultants, as well as our friend Sabine Binzberger in Retzbach, for putting together an inspired moment of memories treasured by so many.
After 2½ years of isolation and uncertainty throughout the world, it is magnificent to see musicians teaming up with each other around the world and forming new bonds of friendship through the shared love of live music. With future workshops, weekend retreats and tours already being considered, who will the FSW connect with next, we wonder?
Welcome home, Florida Symphonic Winds.
Contributors: Todd Emmer, John Herring, Stephanie Lafleur, Jan Senkyr.